Jimmy Smith / Bashin’ – Quick and Easy Test for Setup, Tweaks, Room Treatments, etc.

More Jimmy Smith

More Oliver Nelson

xxxxx

On side one, the bell tree in the right channel on track one is a great test for top end extension, resolution of harmonic complexity, overall clarity and freedom from smear.

Get all the top end you can from whatever turntable adjustment, tweak or room treatment you’re messing around with, then check to make sure that all the brass instruments still sound right. If they do you are good to go.

Bashin’ ranks high on our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale. Do not attempt to play it using anything other than the highest quality equipment.


Letter of the Week – “Meeting Robert has energized me to upgrade my vinyl rig to an MC with a nicer table.”

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Tom,

Meeting Robert [Robert Brook] has energized me to upgrade my vinyl rig to a MC with a nicer table. (Currently I use a VPI Traveler with Clearaudio Artist v2).  Robert also showed me how my supposedly fancy new 180g “audiophile” pressing can often be used to wipe the floor by classic pressings.  The extra deep bass and dynamics to the drums on his copy of Who’s Next vs my new one was particularly eye opening!
Yes, Robert Brook has been making a lot of progress lately and has some good records to play on his much better sounding rig. His blog is definitely worth reading. Here is a link.

Who’s Next is a record we know well, an overview:

Who’s Next… to Remaster the Album Badly?

I’ve purchased a VPI Classic 3se with the 3d arm, and I’m led to believe that the Dynavector is a great match for it.  A friend of a friend has this exact set up and is very happy with it. Robert says you also use a Dynavector for your record shootouts.

Yes, most cartridges would have put us out of business long ago with their wacky EQ, the opposite of what we need to do out job. We talked about it here:

Hi-Fi Beats MyFi If You Are At All Serious about Audio

Once you get your system to that “accurate” and more revealing place, you may find yourself in the same position as our friend Dan here:

Making Audio Progress – Step One: Weed Out the Heavy Vinyl

Best, TP


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here (more…)

Mussorgsky-Ravel / Pictures at an Exhibition / Reiner

xxxxx

This TAS List Super Hot stamper side one has some of the best sound we have ever heard for the Shaded Dog Reiner/CSO Pictures, and side two, although it starts out a little weak, gets going soon enough and earns a Super Hot Stamper sonic grade as well.

Side one is open and natural in the best Living Stereo tradition, with rich lower strings that have virtually no Golden Age smear. Turn it up and listen for the big cymbal crashes — that’s the sound we love. It’s so good it even allows me to enjoy Reiner’s performance, never one of my favorites.

Side One

A++, transparent and free from smear, not many copies are going to beat this one! A little more top would have been nice.

Listen to: Samuel Goldenburg und Schmuyle

Superb sound! The brass and strings on this part of the work are as good as it gets. No smearing of the brass — it’s clean and clear like it is in the concert hall. We’re so used to hearing it wrong that it takes a record like this to remind us how good a full brass choir can really sound. (more…)

Earth, Wind and Fire – Raise!

More Earth, Wind and Fire

xxxxx

  • A KILLER sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last
  • These sides are doing it all right — big, full-bodied and wonderfully present with tons of space around all of the players
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “With each new album, Earth, Wind and Fire remain relatively true to their original sound: elaborate, neatly orchestral funk, influenced equally by American and African sources. But the band also keeps its ear to the radio. Accordingly, Raise! reflects the current wave of street-gritty black pop, from Lakeside to Rick James. Most of the tracks crank up the bass and feature rattling percussion that scrapes against the beat.” – Rolling Stone

(more…)

Various Artists – Woodstock

More Live Albums

xxxxx

  • Woodstock returns to this site with incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on ALL SIX SIDES!
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • “As potent a musical time capsule as ever existed, it captures the three-day, 1969 concert event that united close to half a million members of what came to be known as the ‘Woodstock Generation’. It topped the Billboard Charts for four weeks and sold two million copies.”

You will have a very hard time finding a quieter copy!

Folks, it was a struggle, let me tell you! Not as much of a struggle as putting on the concert itself to be sure, but a struggle for those of us charged with finding good sound on this famously badly recorded album.

First off there are six sides to play for every copy.

Secondly the sound is problematical at best; figuring out what the best copies do well that the run-of-the-mill copies don’t takes quite a bit of concentration, and one has to stay focused for a long time (most of the day in fact). After a while it can really start to wear on your nerves. (more…)

Elvis Costello / My Aim Is True

Hot Stampers of My Aim Is True Available Now

Letters and Commentaries for My Aim Is True

  • The sound is lively, punchy, and powerful – with all due respect, it should MURDER whatever copies you may have
  • A massive step up sonically from most domestic pressings, early or otherwise, and guaranteed to handily beat the imports as well
  • 5 stars: “A phenomenal debut, capturing a songwriter and musician whose words were as rich and clever as his music.”

Yes, it’s lively and has that driving punk rock bass, but what sets this copy apart from the average pressing is the top end — it’s extended, silky and correct. As a consequence, the vocals end up being much more present and natural, with almost none of the grit and spit common to most of the copies anyone is ever likely to come across.

This vintage Columbia pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with Elvis and the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the Best Sides of My Aim Is True Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1977
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Elvis Is Still The King

Remember, we’re talking about one of the best records in the history of rock and roll. It will never sound dated. It will never go out of style. It will reward repeated listenings from now until you lose your hearing. In that respect, it’s like all the best records you and I own: they are priceless treasures.

What We’re Listening For on My Aim Is True

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

A Must Own Rock Record

We consider Elvis’s Debut a Masterpiece. It’s a recording that belongs in any serious Rock Music Collection.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Welcome to the Working Week 
Miracle Man
No Dancing
Blame it on Cain
Alison
Sneaky Feelings

Side Two

(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes 
Less Than Zero
Mystery Dance
Pay It Back
I’m Not Angry
Waiting For the End of the World

AMG Review

Elvis Costello was as much a pub rocker as he was a punk rocker and nowhere is that more evident than on his debut, My Aim Is True. That blend of classicist sensibilities and cleverness make this collection of shiny roots rock a punk record — it informs his nervy performances and his prickly songs.

Of all classic punk debuts, this remains perhaps the most idiosyncratic because it’s not cathartic in sound, only in spirit. Costello went on to more ambitious territory fairly quickly, but My Aim Is True is a phenomenal debut, capturing a songwriter and musician whose words were as rich and clever as his music.

Crosby / Nash – Whistling Down The Wire

More David Crosby

More Graham Nash

xxxxx

  • Whistling Down the Wire returns with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • These sides were noticeably richer than many of the copies we played, which generally tended to be lean and dry
  • We played a big pile of these, but finding the Tubey Magical, spacious, sweet ANALOG sound we were after was not easy
  • Fortunately this copy showed us that it indeed was possible to get the clear, breathy vocals necessary to bring out the wonderful harmonies these two are so rightly famous for

(more…)

Phase IV and the TAS List – Three-Dimensional Depth, Transparency and Space

Hot Stamper Phase 4 Recordings Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Phase 4 Recordings

xxxxx

This TAS List Super Hot Stamper pressing of one of the greatest and most famous Orchestral Blockbuster Soundtracks ever recorded more than lives up to our expectations for Decca Phase 4. This is Phase 4 done RIGHT.

As with all the best Herrmann releases, the huge size and scope you hear is the sound of orchestral music recorded in glorious ANALOG!

The sound is so clear, spacious and three-dimensional that you will feel as if your speakers have disappeared before your very eyes.

The layering of depth is really something to hear on this copy, with choirs of brass instruments located precisely in space, some further back, some off to the side of the soundstage. And what a soundstage it is, so wide and deep. Transparency – a quality you find on both sides of this copy — is what makes this all sound so REAL.

Opacity Vs. Transparency

Note that we have been especially anti-heavy vinyl in our recent commentaries for their consistently opaque character, the opposite of what is necessary in order to hear into the music, deep into the soundstage, to see and hear ALL the instruments, even the ones at the back.

Try that with any Classic Record or Speakers Corner pressing. It’s records like this that show you precisely what you have been missing all these years if you have been collecting and playing releases from those labels and the others like them. (more…)

John Denver – Poems, Prayers and Promises

More John Denver

xxxxx

  • This early Orange Label RCA pressing earned Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides
  • We guarantee that it’s fuller, bigger and clearer than any copy you have ever heard or your money back
  • Superb engineering by Ray Hall— the recording is from 1971 but in some ways it sounds as good as if it had been made in 1961 — high praise in these parts!
  • “… this was at the beginning of a golden period for Denver when his songs would dominate the easy listening airwaves, especially his big hit singles.” – All Music

NOTE: The record has a noticeable dishwarp which we had no trouble playing perfectly.  If your rig struggles with dishwarped records, best to pass on this one. (more…)

The Mamas & The Papas – Self-Titled

More of The Mamas and The Papas

xxxxx

  • Clear, rich, present vocals, tons of Tubey Magic, and a solid bottom end; this quintessential 60’s pop album really comes to life here
  • 4 stars: “Sometimes art and events, personal or otherwise, converge on a point transcending the significance of either… For the Mamas & the Papas, it happened twice, with their first album, If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, and, on a more complex level, with this album.”

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. Some will have cut corners. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice enough cover for you.

This album is ridiculously difficult to find good sound for, but this pressing finally hit the mark! While we have to wade through dozens of copies to find one this impressive, we’re happy to do it because we love records and we love the music of The Mamas and the Papas.

Unfortunately, most copies of this album sound like distorted cassettes. They’re clearly made from tapes that are at least one and probably more like two or three generations down from the master two-track mix.

The CD that Hoffman cut for MCA back in the day can be quite good, and the Creeque Alley double CD set sounds fine to these ears as well. But they’re CDs. They won’t satisfy the serious analog devotee. (more…)